Fears for Great Barrier Reef over Rio Tinto mine expansion

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Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has reopened consideration of Rio Tinto’s $1.4 billion South of Embley bauxite mine expansion following concern over its environmental impact.

Environmental groups have accused Rio of cutting corners on the assessment of its plan to expand the Weipa bauxite mine, and claim the project will put the Great Barrier Reef at risk.

A Rio Tinto spokesperson told The Australian the project would result in 700 extra ships travelling the Queensland coast but there would be “no increase in ship movements through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.”

The United Nations has previously expressed concern over the expansion of mining operations along Queensland and their potential to damage the Great Barrier Reef.

A delegation from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation will visit Australia in March to see what the Queensland and federal governments are doing to protect the reef.

In a submission to the Government The Wilderness Society said the South of Embley project would have “enormous environmental impacts”.

The Wilderness Society called on the Government to reject the mine and claimed there was “no way this mine can proceed on an ecologically sustainable basis”.

Depending on regulatory approvals construction on the project could begin in 2012, and will require new infrastructure such as beneficiation plants, a power station, and ship loading and barge facilities.

According to The Australian the mine is scheduled to start production in 2015 and will create 630 jobs during construction and between 500 and 1200 during operation.

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